Michael King
Digital Marketing Strategies that Fuel a $64 Billion Software Giant
Michael expands on the demand gen strategy that he calls “the relentless pursuit of whatever works,” illustrates his audience-action-measurement playbook, discusses the importance of a consistent customer experience, and explains why your channels must reflect your audience.
VMware believes that software has the power to unlock new opportunities for people and our planet. They look beyond the barriers of compromise to engineer new ways to make technologies work together seamlessly. Their compute, cloud, mobility, networking, and security offerings form a digital foundation that powers the apps, services, and experiences that are transforming the world. Since their founding over two decades ago, their 24,000+ employee community and ecosystem of 75,000 partners have been behind the technology innovations transforming entire industries – from banking, healthcare, and government to retail, telecommunications, manufacturing, and transportation. Every day, they work to solve customers’ toughest challenges through disruptive technologies like edge computing, artificial intelligence, blockchain, machine learning, Kubernetes, and more – to define the digital foundation that will accelerate the next wave of innovation.

Michael King is the Senior Director of Cloud Marketing at VMware, where he works to elevate VMware’s market presence and drive demand for their cloud offerings. He oversees the VMware Cloud Marketing team, which includes the demand and growth teams, scale teams, technology platform teams (including web, marketing automation, and full martech stack), and partner marketing teams. In the past 18 months, this team has launched an entirely new web presence, marketing stack, and messaging platform, ultimately driving growth for 23 newly-launched cloud services.

Episode Summary

This episode features an interview with Michael King, Senior Director of Cloud Marketing at VMware. Inside the $64 billion cloud computing and virtualization software giant, Michael is responsible for the VMware Cloud Marketing team and is tasked with transforming the customer perception of VMware’s cloud services and products.

In this episode, Michael expands on the demand gen strategy that he calls “the relentless pursuit of whatever works,” illustrates his audience-action-measurement playbook, discusses the importance of a consistent customer experience, and explains why your channels must reflect your audience.

Key Takeaways

  • How the seismic shift away from “broadcast” marketing tactics is ushering in a new wave of conversational marketing tactics that are generating massive ROI
  • Why marketing’s fundamental measure of success should be revenue-based, and how to make this transition in your organization
  • Ways the most successful demand gen marketers are pushing the envelope to eliminate friction in the buying process and speed up sales cycles


Demand gen strategy at VMware is the relentless pursuit of whatever works. I tend not to be dogmatic about these things. I work with a team that is always challenging me, always pushing me to think differently.
No matter what, things are always changing. You may come at it thinking, ‘I know the audience, I know the market, I know the benefits, here's the play I'm going to run.’ But things change…Anytime you go into any demand gen or any other marketing situation thinking that you have it cooked, you're probably cooked.
The longer the time frame is from hand raising activity to benefit achievement, the fewer customers you're going to convert, and then you'll just see leaky funnel left and right...reduction in speed is what kills all good demand gen programs.
There's a lot of things that you can measure…but when it comes down to it, marketing, I feel, should measure itself on one thing and one thing only: revenue through the door.
As marketers, as product people, we spend 10, 12, sometimes 20 hours a day thinking about our product. The average customer spends 20 minutes a quarter thinking about your product. So you have a very limited amount of time to earn that ear.

Episode Transcript

(6:08) Michael’s Demand Gen Fundamentals

  • Michael and his team were brought on to relaunch VMware into the cloud
  • VMware’s demand gen strategy is the relentless pursuit of “whatever works”
  • Constantly experimenting and testing new messages, audiences, and channels
  • Think about demand as a triangle: Identify the audience, determine the desired action, decide on the measurement. They’re experiment and test everything around this triangle.

(12:27) Michael’s Team Structure

  • Team is composed of demand and growth team, partner marketing team, SaaS customer experience team, and a revenue operations team
  • Demand and growth team is split into “always-on” marketing projects, campaign-specific projects, and digital projects (social and video)
  • They operate similarly to an agency model for other VMware teams

(19:05) Consistent Customer Messaging

  • Customers will often hear one type of messaging from marketing, and then a slightly shifted message from the sales team, and then a slightly different positioning when they get into the product
  • This inconsistent messaging causes a slowdown in the sales process
  • Michael is a big believer in having his team support consistent customer messaging

(21:43) Michael’s Uncuttable Demand Gen Budget Items

  • Communities: You must learn where your customers gather and participate in those forums
  • Open-source software: If you’re selling to or working with developers, knowing your open-source communities and spending time in your open source is critical
  • Blogs: Serve as a consistent, repetitive point of contact with customers. A lot of content marketing is a single exchange, but blogs keep people engaged repeatedly

(26:37) The Seismic Shift Toward Community-Based Conversational Marketing

  • “Broadcast marketing” — email campaigns, display ads, social media — are becoming less effective and more expensive because they’re difficult to execute with growing privacy regulations and noisy, saturated channels
  • The signal-to-noise ratio is so low; the value you get from random emails, random calls, starts to get filters out
  • The way to project your message in through interactions with your community
  • The ROI of investing in community engagement in terms of what you learn and in terms of eliciting interest in your offering is night and day compared to broadcast marketing

(29:46) There’s No Measure of Success Other Than Revenue

  • Marketing has one measure of success: is revenue coming in through the door?
  • There are several other engagement measures to pay attention to, but it ultimately boils down to revenue

(30:25) Michael’s Favorite Demand Gen Campaigns

  • One from a previous company was especially successful: it was early in the mobile application development days, and they produced an annual research report that completely changed the conversation the market was having about their space
  • Recently at VMware they launched KubeAcademy, a educational platform for Kubernetes. It drove very high engagement, but was especially valuable because it allowed them to build a community and give back to their audience to help them up-level their skills

(35:36) Websites are the Nexus of Demand Gen Activities

  • Websites are both a destination and a conversion place
  • Michael looks at websites as conversion first and informational second
  • Websites must uphold consistent messaging and positioning in order to prevent conversion slowdown; a reduction in speed is what kills all good demand gen

(43:48) Quick Hits: Getting to Know Michael

  • New shelter-in-place hobby: Coffee roasting
  • Recent books and podcasts: Hacks on Tap (podcast), Behave by Robert Sapolsky (book), How Not to Be Wrong: the Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenberg (book)
  • Advice for first-time Head of Marketing: 1) Spend a boatload of time with your sales team, and 2) know your product

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